Street View: 65
Address: 4 Mortimer Street
The index to booklet 65 of the Street Views, lists Cheffin, music seller, at 4 Mortimer Street, but the elevation in the street plan gives the name of Morse, bookseller & stationer, so what is going on? The bookseller was Edward Morse, who could be found at number 4 in Pigot’s Directory of 1839 and in the 1841 census, but that is more or less the end of the story for Morse, as I have not been able to find out anything else about him; he must have had a very short career indeed. I will leave Mr. Morse for what he was and continue with Cheffin whose name was usually spelled with an ‘s’, so Cheffins. If you search online for Cheffins, you will invariably end up with information about Charles Frederic Cheffins, but that was Alexander’s brother. Charles was the elder of the brothers and baptised in December 1807 at St. Bride’s as the son of Richard and Jane Cheffins. Richard Cheffins worked for the New River Waterworks Company and was a member of the Pattenmakers’ Company, although he described himself as surveyor on the indenture document when he took Charles on as his apprentice in 1822. Charles had a glittering career as mechanical draughtsman, lithographer, cartographer, consulting engineer, and surveyor. He published many maps, of which the majority depicted new railways that were either proposed or being built.
Charles became assistant to John Ericson who was working on a faster engine for the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. This connection with Liverpool brought Charles into contact with Lucinda Harrison Grey, whom he married there in October 1830, but the couple went to live in London and the 1841 census finds them at 9 Southampton Buildings, Holborn, the address Cheffins continued to use throughout his life. Only in the very last year of his life, 1861, after the death of his wife the year before, did he move to 15 Gloucester Terrace, Hyde Park.(1)
But back to 4 Mortimer Street where brother Alexander Cheffins had his music business, or at least, he had for a short while. Alexander, as we saw, was the son of Richard and Jane Cheffins, and he too was baptised at St. Bride’s, on 17 July 1814. In February 1837, he married Ann Pattison at All Souls, St. Marylebone. The earliest I found him in Mortimer Street is on the baptism registration for their son Frederick who was baptised on 22 May 1838. Alexander gives his occupation as pianoforte maker, so he was definitely involved in the music industry. The next child for the couple to be baptised is Anne Louisa (21 Aug. 1839). Alexander is then listed as a musical instrument seller, but the address given is 15 Mortimer Street. That section of Mortimer Street is not listed by Tallis, so I cannot say who occupied number 15 before Cheffins. Pigot’s Directory of 1839 also lists Cheffins at number 15, so the occupation of number 4 was as short-lived as it was for Edward Morse. And so was their sojourn at number 15, as the 1841 census already reports them at Upper Rosomon Street, Clerkenwell. Alexander is then a “professor of music”. In 1844, the family lives in Granville Square, in 1845-1851 in Weston Street, in 1852-1856 in Ampton Street, all the while with Alexander described as professor of music. But then, in 1859, when the youngest child, Percy, is baptised, the family is living at Brunswick Street and Alexander is suddenly described as surveyor.(2) What happened? Was music no longer profitable enough? Or perhaps, he was not as musical as he made out? The only publication I found for him is a ballad, “The Happy Bride” which begins: They said she was married. The text is by J.H. Jewell and the music by Cheffins.(3)
Whatever the reason for Alexander’s change of profession, from 1859 onwards he is variously described as draughtsman or surveyor. In other words, he followed in his father and brother’s footsteps. And in 1865, he is given a provisional patent as a mechanical draughtsman for an invention to improve the construction of omnibuses.(4) In 1871 and 1881 the census found him at Kentish Town. He died in 1885. Son Edwin had a similar job change as his father; in 1871 he was listed as a railway clerk, but in 1881 as a pianoforte tuner. Music, drawing and mechanics were apparently skills that went together in this particular family.
And 4 Mortimer Street? We saw Edward Morse there in the 1841 census and he had his name plastered on the front of the building in the Street View, but most of the building must have been overrun by the women of Anna Maria Hammans’s milliner’s business. The occupation of the building by the Hammanses pre- and post-dates that of Morse and Cheffin, so it seems that it was a multi-business property. The Hammanses were already there in early 1834, when Maria and Rebecca Hammans of 4 Mortimer Street dissolve their partnership, but possibly long before that.(5) In 1841, Anna and at least nine women were living at the property, besides bookseller Morse, a porter and three gentlemen who were listed as independent. One of the milliners was Elizabeth Abrahall who is mentioned in Anna’s will of 1845 as her sister and who is left the business.(6) The 1851 census does indeed see Elizabeth Abrahall at number 4 as dressmaker, although the 1851 Post Office Directory still has the name of Anna Maria Hammans for number 4. The 1856 Post Office Directory names the firm Mrs Elizabeth Hammans & Co. By 1861, however, her place has been taken by Eliza Johnson, a lodging house keeper. And is this the whole story? No, censuses and Tallis do not tell us everything. We know, for instance, that in 1848, one Jacques Robert Lavenne, heraldic engraver and fancy stationer, was listed as “late of no. 4” in the bankruptcy records. And the same goes for John James MacGregor, surgeon, who had to appear before the commissioners in 1855. What does seem clear is that 4 Mortimer Street, contrary to many long-running single-family businesses listed in the Street Views, had numerous occupants, as well as a resident family not mentioned in Tallis, in the years just before, during and after the period in which Tallis produced his booklets.
(1) Charles was buried at All Souls, Kensal Green 28 October 1861. England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1861. Estate valued at under £35,000. Sons Charles Richard and George Alexander were two of the executors.
(2) Children: Frederick, bapt. 22-05-1838; Anne Louisa, bapt. 21-8-1839; Henry Alexander, bapt. 31-10-1841; Richard Albert, bapt. 8-9-1844; Julia, bapt. 8-11-1845; Herbert George, bapt. 23-05-1852; Edwin John, bapt. 17-9-1854; Alfred Courtenay, bapt. 8-6-1856; and Percy Frank, bapt. 28-8-1859.
(3) British Library music collection H.282.o.(8).
(4) Patent Office, Chronological and Descriptive Index of Patents, Cheffins, 27th July 1865.
(5) The Hammanses came from Garford, Berkshire. Rebecca, Maria, Anna Maria and Elizabeth were all daughters of William Hammans and his wife Elizabeth.
(6) PROB 11/2022/350. Elizabeth Hammans had married John Abrahall by licence on 28 July 1828.
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